A center of gravity. That is how Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton describes the new East Campus Athletic Village once it is fully operational to the Rensselaer Community at the start of next semester. Far from catering only to the student-athletes on campus—as many originally thought it would—ECAV is set to be integrated into the everyday lives of all students and faculty on campus.
As part of the Student Life Performance Plan, ECAV is touted to be another option for students to meet, study, and do homework—an alternative to the Rensselaer Union or the Folsom Library. ECAV is not meant to draw students away from either location; rather it will provide another option and remove some of the stress that both the Union and library face from the large number of students that fill the buildings on a daily basis.
“We don’t want to take students away from those other places as much as to provide them another convenient location to mix a little bit of work and play,” explained Knowlton. Even though the building featured an unveiling ceremony on October 3, it is still not completely open to the general public due to several small projects that still need to be finished. “Our first priority is to get it open to all of our students,” said Knowlton of the undertaking.
Knowlton further explained that with any new project, there are usually a slew of small tasks—dubbed a punch list—that need completing before it can be opened to the public. For ECAV, the list consists of a whopping 2,000 items, ranging from installing new flooring on the second level to card access for students. “As we work through the punch list, we’re trying to prioritize so that we can get those items done that will allow us to open up more and more,” said Knowlton. Currently, all the outer turf fields—Renwyck Field, Harkness Field, and the East Campus Stadium—are open. The arena, strength and conditioning areas, and café are still closed due to the construction or lack of security in the immediate areas. “Once we get [card access] operational and we get the hardware in, we’ll be in much better shape.”
Similar to the Union and the library, ECAV will feature a healthy mix of study space, meeting areas, and a place for students to grab a quick snack. It will be a unique twist in giving students a place to nurture their bodies as well as minds. The café, which will open in late January, will feature a range of grab-and-go snacks such as protein shakes and bars, salads, fruits, and sandwiches, all payable with a student’s RAD card. Current plans also include several big-screen TVs, lounge chairs, and wireless internet access throughout the building. In the large patio area outside of the café, affectionately dubbed the “knuckle,” chairs and tables will be available for students to use in nice weather, allowing for a large range of options for the community to meet and relax. Also within the building are seven conference rooms, ranging in size from a small group to large meeting areas. These rooms also feature large, flat-panel TVs to which a laptop could easily be hooked up for a presentation or a demonstrations.
“[ECAV] gives [students] another place on campus to serve multiple functions,” said Knowlton, comparing the facility with the library, where students are able to study and grab something to eat in one convenient location. “If this is closer to where you live, for anyone that lives in the northeast sector of campus, it allows them to be close to home, get something to eat, study, mingle with friends, students, and et cetera.”
Also open to students will be the state-of–the-art strength and conditioning center overlooking the stadium field. Although the area primarily caters to students looking for a serious workout and being able to increase their raw strength, it also welcomes any member of the Rensselaer community. Knowlton explained that he feels that many students come to try the new facilities, but return to the Mueller Center due to the lack of aerobic equipment at ECAV. Regardless of the type of workout, Knowlton encourages students to come try the new facilities at ECAV, and then decide which location works better for what they are trying to accomplish with their fitness.
Currently the hours of operation for the strength and conditioning center, as well as the rest of the building, are to be 7am to 9 pm, but are subject to change due to intramural athletics and students’ schedules. “We’ll tailor those hours based on needs, but that’s sort of our opening hours for the building. In fact, our outside intramurals typically go to 11pm, so depending on how things shake out we might adjust our hours a little bit to accommodate the different intramural and club needs as we see how each of those programs have started to grow,” said Knowlton.
Knowlton is pleased with how the new facilities have transformed the student body’s athletic experiences. Having additional field and training space has already taken a lot of the stress off the Mueller Center and has opened the ’86 Field and Anderson Field to general student recreation, intramural, and club sport use. This past semester has seen a record number of intramural soccer teams, and Knowlton expects similar increases in other intramural activities in the spring semester. “I’d love to see every student get a chance to participate in either intercollegiate, intramural, or club [athletics],” said Knowlton. “We’re going to continue to add opportunities based on the desires of the students over the course of this year, and I’m sure over the course of the next few years.”
One of the strongest supporters of ECAV and its involvement in student life is President Shirley Ann Jackson, whom Knowlton praises for continuing on with the project despite the economic downturn. He also noted the involvement of Claude Rounds, vice president for administration, who has “gone out of his way to solve these problems and the punch list items to help us get to where we can continue to open and make [ECAV] more accessible.” Also instrumental has been Dr. Eddie Ade Knowles, Vice President of Student Life, who has worked hard to integrate the facility into the overall student experience.
Despite all the setbacks, Knowlton is excited for the opportunities Rensselaer students will have once ECAV is fully open and operational. In the upcoming months, students will have more options on where to study, eat, and play with the opening of the new facility to the public, adding much more to the student life experience.